Deron Williams

How good are the Nets? Coach admits not a contender.

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The Brooklyn Nets are going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch come together next season.

They were awful, injury plagued and seemingly unmotivated last season in Jersey, but now they have a new home in Brooklyn and a new roster — Joe Johnson has been added to a re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. That’s a lineup that should score points and be entertaining to watch.

But how good are they? Coach Avery Johnson put it in perspective speaking to the Dallas Morning News (via the Hang Time blog).

“Deron was a big key to the whole puzzle,’’ Avery Johnson said. “To be able to acquire some other talent through free agency or trades or re-signing some of our own guys, it’s pretty exciting for us. We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.

“We’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been. Right now, we look good on paper. Now we got to take it from looking good on paper and apply the work to go (forward).’’

They are not contenders. But they are good. That versatility the coach speaks of comes at a price — the Nets have the second highest payroll in the league and I would be worried about it in a couple of years when Johnson is older and more expensive while Lopez and Williams are still on the books. The future could be a mess.

But the present is going to be pretty good. They are going to put up points if they can stay healthy — Wallace, Lopez and Johnson playing off Williams is a serious set of threats. The measuring stick will be their defense and rebounding. They are not going to be very good at that end, but if Johnson can get them to average on defense they will win a lot of games.

To me the Nets, Knicks and Sixers are all kind of in the same place, likely the middle of the pack in the Eastern conference playoff group (from three to six or so). Health and that work to come together Johnson talks about will be what separates those sides and sets up playoff seedings. Boston could be better than this group during the regular season with their depth but where the Celtics are really dangerous is in the playoffs. The Bulls are hard to read without Derrick Rose for much of the year, but expect them in the middle also.

The Atlantic Division is going to be the toughest division in the NBA next season, with four teams (Boston, Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia) potentially able to win it and the bottom team in Toronto being dangerous and improved. No division is going to be deeper. Which should make for a fun season.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.